Artificial Jellyfish That Swims Can Tell Us About Human Heart Function.

Jul 27, 2012 11:20 AM EDT

A team of researchers have created an artificial jellyfish using rat heart muscle tissue and thin silicon polymer to study the human heart and its circulatory system.

Researchers from the Harvard University and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have developed the bio-engineered "Medusa" jellyfish dubbed as "Medusoid" that can swim like a biological jellyfish.

Jellyfish swim by pumping their muscles similar to how a human heart functions. Researchers used thin silicon film to recreate an artificial small jellyfish with a thin membrane that has eight lobes as arms that spreads out from the center of the bell.

They used rat heart muscle tissue as a raw material to create contraction of the muscles so that the "Medusoid" can swim in the water by pumping the muscles when electric current is passed. The jellyfish moved forward for every muscle contraction similar to how a biological jellyfish will propel to feed on food.

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They created muscle architecture similar to the real jellyfish by printing a pattern of protein on the membrane to help the heart cells take the right positions. The experts were able to develop swimming and feeding behaviors using this technique.

"I was surprised that with relatively few components - a silicone base and cells that we arranged - we were able to reproduce some pretty complex swimming and feeding behaviors that you see in biological jellyfish," said John Dabiri, a professor of aeronautics and bioengineering at Caltech and who co-authored the study, in a news release.

Researchers believe that the study will help in understanding how the human heart works and ultimately lead to treatment of damaged ones with new tissues. The artificial jellyfish can be used in tissue engineering to study the methods that can help to improve or replace biological operations.

Experts are planning to develop a jellyfish that can turn in any direction and gather food on its own. They even plan to build a brain for the jellyfish that can respond to any environment and work based on their internal signals.

This way, the artificial jellyfish can be used in understanding how a system like pacemaker that is used to regulate the heart beat can function without the need of batteries and can take care of itself.

he study is published in the online publication of the journal Nature Biotechnology.

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